Heart-Smart Classes

Urged for Schools

Schools should be more aggressive in teaching children about heart disease and the risks of bad diet and little exercise, the American Heart Association said yesterday. Estimates are that more than 15 percent of American children are very overweight, or obese.

Laura Hayman, a nurse and professor who wrote the statement, said national data show about 80 percent of children are not getting the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. She also said that 44 percent of high school students are not in physical-education classes.

The heart association statement, published in the journal Circulation, calls for more PE classes, heart-healthy meals and a tobacco-free environment from preschool through 12th grade and during after-school programs.

Expert Plays Down Rise

In Greenhouse Gases

An unexplained jump in greenhouse gases since 2002 might herald a catastrophic acceleration of global warming if it becomes a trend, scientists said. But they added that the two-year leap might be an anomaly linked to forest fires in Siberia or a freak hot summer in Europe in 2003 -- rather than a portent of runaway climate change linked to human disruption of the climate system.

"We shouldn't get alarmist about this. . . . If it lasted for more than about five years, you'd start to get worried," said Richard Betts, manager for Ecosystems and Climate Impacts at Britain's Hadley Centre. Levels of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for blanketing the planet and pushing up temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, have risen by more than two parts per million (ppm) in the past two years, compared with the longer-term rate of about 1.5 ppm in recent years.

The rise in the past two years is quicker than mapped out in U.N. projections to 2100 based on increased human use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas.

MRIs Could Shed Light

On Arterial Condition

A modified magnetic scan can tell patients whether cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are unblocking their clogged arteries, U.S. researchers reported. The magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans also can be used to resolve uncertainties about how the drugs work, said the researchers, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The MRI showed artery-blocking plaque thinning after six months of statin treatment, the team reported. MRI has been used to monitor blocked arteries before, but it typically took a year or more to show results. The Hopkins team improved the MRI's sensitivity by putting extra coil rings around the chest of each patient in the study. An antenna was inserted through the nose and down the esophagus to amplify the signal.

"Our study increases the likelihood that MRI could eventually be used as a predictive technology for determining which patients should be placed on statin therapy for atherosclerosis," said cardiologist Joao Lima, who led the study. Writing in the journal Circulation, the Hopkins team said it followed 29 patients who took Merck & Co.'s simvastatin, sold under the brand name Zocor, for three years.

-- From News Services